As the first branding consultations have come on behalf of craft chocolate brands over the past months, getting to know my clients better has allowed me to outline insightful traits worth discussing. While some of these traits are positive and projecting great potential on the market for the craft chocolate brands advised, others suggest the urgency of corrective actions.
A free template provided to craft chocolate brands to survey their past, present, and future situation outlined a few common positive aspects coming out:
- a strong desire to promote a regenerative impact at the origin of the raw material (in favor of the sustainability of fine cocoa farming, especially),
- a growing trend in elevating the culture of the local community around which the craft chocolate brand thrives (this implies groundbreaking activities like educating people to appreciate quality chocolate and involving small local producers from other food niches to form seasonal partnerships),
- a steady interest in developing new products, whether regarding new cocoa origins, trendy food inclusions, or better processes.
But the notable aspect mostly underestimated by craft chocolate brands when it came to their marketing efforts remained only one:
- not knowing their customer well (customer is intended not the ideal customer buyer, but the one who actually buys the product from a specific brand.)
As a result, the branding race for hundreds of players in craft chocolate turns out as a competition without winners where most tend to invest their efforts in the same aspects their competitors do as well.
Craft chocolate brands are usually all the rage when it comes to creating the most captivating and instagrammable packaging or mold, the limited edition product made with the rarest cocoa origin or the fanciest flavor of the year, and the copy for their labels and social media that best converts as many potential buyers as possible. For sure, these are all aspects of paramount importance for any brand in any industry today, but there’s a problem sticking to craft chocolate. Craft chocolate brands are available to invest four zeros in defining their ideal customer persona but often miss out on their most important marketing strategy: getting to know their real buyer, the one who may become—or already is—a repeat customer.
Most craft chocolate makers have a blurred picture of the person who opens the wallet for their brand on the shelf of a specialty food store or the online shop of a bean-to-bar chocolate aggregator.
Before understanding why not delving into the profile of the actual customer is a big mistake in planning an effective marketing strategy, let’s see what is the number one mentality that a craft chocolate brand needs to achieve sustainable success for their business in the long run.
Adopting a Customer-Centric approach: the first marketing strategy craft chocolate brands need
Competition oozes in every industry today, and even successfully expanding micro-industry niches like craft chocolate appear saturated in an ever-fierce and fast-changing market. Brands can still track analytics, watch their number of website visitors grow, count how many social followers they have, but the harsh truth is, that’s not enough. Data without insights not only are useless but don’t add any value to where the brand is going to or aims at.
So what should a small chocolate business do to measure the performance of its branding and marketing efforts?
Let’s look at the biggest chocolate players on the market. Whenever a brand announces market gains that far exceed even their estimates, you can rest assured that the successful brand is managing one thing masterly: knowing its customers by the gram. So, the crude reality is there is only one judge for a great marketing strategy: the customer. This is why adopting a customer-centric approach can do wonders for craft chocolate brands competing for the same span of attention out there.
Customer-centric marketing focuses on creating personalized products and/or services to ensure the customer* of that product or service is getting something close to what they are looking for.
* = Customer is meant not only someone in a business-to-consumer (B2C) relationship, but also anyone else in a business-to-business (B2B) relationship, i.e., HoReCa channels, corporate clients, pastry professionals, etc…
Old traditional marketing based on sales tactics resonate so ineffectively in the mind of any target customer audience today.
To be assimilated as a natural aspect throughout any process, small chocolate companies should stop trying to tell people who may buy why their product and mission are the best and start talking with people who do buy to understand how they can improve aspects of their business.
Some incredible advantages will rise for smart chocolate brands adopting a strategic customer-centric mindset. Here are the top three reasons reported by marketing research:
- Putting the customer’s needs first not only can help improve relationships with potential customers but retain first-time customers. This is because customers like to feel like they are being given special treatment and are considered part of a large picture where the brand puts them at the center of its decisions. Marketing studies reveal how 90% of consumers find personalization appealing, while 80% say they would be more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized approaches.
The importance of knowing your customers well as a craft chocolate brand is that you can create something that fits their unique needs, and so they can develop increasing trust and familiarity with you. This can make people buying from you more loyal to your brand.
Having more people loyal as customers brings other two significant advantages:
- Loyal customers end up being worth ten times their original purchase. This is because loyal customers are more accessible to sell to. This dramatically reduces the amount of time that customer needs to spend being nurtured and convinced. There’s social proof that past customers have a 65% chance of converting compared to a 13% chance for new prospects.
By paying attention to your customers’ needs, you can reduce your marketing costs while bringing in more value and profit.
- Loyal customers are more likely to support you in getting new customers. When a customer is happy with your brand, they’ll want to share their experience with other people. Word-of-mouth and recommendations are the most potent free marketing channels that can help boost your trust with new leads and can get you more sales.
In short, when you stop trying to guess what your customers are looking for and start listening to what they are telling you, you are increasing revenue while creating long-term relationships. It’s a win-win!
How to bring your relationship with the customer to the next level by using surveys as a craft chocolate brand
Customers are dynamic people more varied than what you think. You can have spent some time and money on defining your ideal customer persona, you can be attending the most relevant events in the industry in your country or continent, but not all your customers will tick the boxes you idealized or reach the location where you are attending the same events every year.
The most loyal customers who are sustaining your small chocolate business may be those who find your brand among the wines and coffees of a local specialty food store but with whom you have never interacted directly. Your most demanding customers may be those who have cherry-picked your brand in an online shop because they read great reviews about your chocolate on social media.
Yet, you do not know all these information, because you just believe that your sales process begins with the definition of your values, your products, and your customers, and ends with the moment your chocolate flies off the shelf.
Your biggest mistake as a small chocolate brand is to not consider valuable feedback by your customers, which can be an incredibly useful element to direct your next moves and distinguish yourself from your competitors.
This is why I am not the best branding consultant for your craft chocolate brand (although l really love guiding you through this process), your customer is.
Consult your customers, do not guess them. Start making them feel part of the values of your brand. But how to do that?
Create surveys, mindfully.
Here are the steps to first know your customers better and then redefine your customer persona:
- 1. Get your customers invited to surveys.
If you want to know something more specific from your target audience, why not ask? Consulting the customer is better than idealizing a customer’s experience.
Surveys can provide you with direct insights or opinions that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to collect.
You can start organizing surveys using the following channels and tools:
- Social Media. You can publish a post or a story as a question with an open or closed answer—depending on the features available in different social media. Keep in mind, however, that if the participants’ responses are public, you risk collecting answers influenced by the first respondents.
Therefore, opt for social media if you are interested in opinions even from people who are not necessarily your customers.
- Online Forms. Even if slightly more technically demanding than a public survey on social media, organizing a private survey on an online form can collect and analyze responses by different participants in an unbiased way. This type of survey can be created with the help of free tools with basic features like Google Forms, or professional-looking yet affordable services like Survey Anyplace.
Choose online forms if you like doing things short and sweet, as online forms don’t require highly technical skills. However, set up online surveys in a wise way that will lead as many people as possible to participate and not drop out halfway through. You can do so by first describing the impact the respondents will contribute to your brand, and then specifying the number of questions and the average time the survey will take away.
- Chatbots. A chatbot is an algorithm that attempts to simulate the conversation of a human being via text or voice interactions. A user can ask a chatbot a question or choose an option, and the chatbot responds or performs the requested action. SnatchBot is a free service for creating and integrate chatbots on different platforms (websites, social media, messenger applications), but it requires a good technical level to provide the conversation with a human-like, logical flow. As with online forms, chatbots can record participants’ responses during the interview and then be exported as a document for their analysis.
Choose chatbots if you like being on the cutting edge. Chatbots are the future of the efficient customer service experience: by using artificial intelligence, you can generate a more personalized and fun interaction than a form with your respondents, while you are saving time for other important activities as a business.
Once all the responses of the survey participants have been collected within a defined term, the next step is the analysis of the answers that should be calibrated according to the survey objective. This phase aims to find a common line to follow or side suggestions to add as alternatives to your ideas.
A creative and strategic survey process for your brand can be set up like this.
- You are restyling your packaging, or you are open to comments for new flavors to include. Print a link or a QR code as a note and add it inside your packaging to invite those who bought your product to view the alternatives for the new packaging that your designer has thought for your brand or the origins/inclusions you are undecided to add to your line.
- Invite the participants in your decision-making process and reward them with a 10% discount on your online shop at the end of the survey or via email when the new product is released. You can alternatively think of a giveaway, as well.
- Also, consider creating a hashtag to share on social media once your new product is released. In this way, you will get free advertising on social media by those who will buy or receive your new chocolate product, making them feel part of your brand and more loyal to it or just in the mood to refer it to others.
A perfect example of customer listening.
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Customers are always asking us to make a coffee flavoured truffle. And why wouldn’t we? After all, we roast our own coffee and make our own chocolate. So here we are. One of this years seasonal truffles is inspired by the flavours of Turkish coffee. Behind the scenes we hilariously call it the Cardi C 🤣🙄 Cardamom and Coffee infused ganache atop a crunchy wafer base. Let us know what you think. . . . . . #eastvanroasters #portlandhotelsociety #socialenterprise #womenempowerment #fairtrade #coffeeandchocolate #vancouverbakery #vancouverfoodie #coffeeroaster #gastown #gastowneats #mygastown #gastownvancouver #yvrtreats #yvrfood #yvrcoffee #beantobar #craftchocolate #shoplocal #vancouverisawesome #vancityeats #dailyhivevan #vancitybuzz #f52grams #curiosityvancouver #madeinvancouver #knowyourfood #bcbuylocal
A similar survey process can be created to query who visits your café and evaluates the service and assortment offered.
There are no limits to the possibilities you can explore with a simple questionnaire.
Only after getting to know the profile of your customer closer, you can better redefine your customer persona.
- 2. Redefine your customer persona.
A buyer persona describes one ideal customer in great detail. Within this persona, you can outline some pretty necessary information about your target audience. This includes their basic demographics and background, and some unique identifiers.
However, if you really want to make your customers the focus of your marketing, you need to watch how they evolve. Come back and revisit your buyer persona every six months, or after a major shift in your business occurs.
In conclusion, if you are a small craft chocolate brand and believe your product or service comes before those who buy it, you may commit a big mistake. Create the best product or service you can, but keep the focus on who buys your brand.
Use customer surveying.
Be proud of the aspects for which you are praised on and improve those that were not relevant to you until yesterday. Only in this way will you be able to distinguish yourself from the rest and make an impact on your market in the long term.
If you are a craft chocolate brand, how do you know your customers and what do you think of using surveys?